Our lake shorelines are amazing places and we can only see a tiny portion of what goes on along the water’s edge. While lounging on the dock, swimming with the kids or getting ready for a boat tour of the lake, where land and water meet there exists a unique, fragile and highly productive ecosystem apart from us.
The land located along shorelines is known as a riparian zone or the “Ribbon of Life”, providing rich habitat for fish, animals and plants. It is in these transition zones, the wildlife corridors in the waterway, that many forms of life have their nurseries or feeding spots.
- Fish spawn
- Aquatic insects mate
- Ducks and other water birds build nests
- Turtles climb onto shore to lay eggs
- Aquatic plants feed the fish, animals and birds
- Plants provide shelter and locations to reproduce
The shoreline ecosystem also filters out sediment, and traps pollutants.
It absorbs excess nutrients from human and natural sources, maintains base stream flows, limits flooding, and recharges groundwater by absorbing water. It can stabilize and protect banks from erosion when vegetation with dense root masses exists there. This vegetation also cools and shades the water for the life that makes this area home.
The bottom line: healthy shorelines are essential for all who share our lakes and rivers. Let’s do our part to understand, protect, restore and enhance the Ribbon of Life on our properties. It’s something to think about.
Ask an Expert
One of the regular features in the Lake of the Woods Area News is the “Ask An Expert” section, where we pose questions from our members to relevant experts, and print their responses. Want to submit a question for this column? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Causes & Effects of Shoreline Erosion
Enjoy the day, but make the right choice—observe the 30m Law
Boating too close to the shore causing increased wave action can be extremely damaging to the shoreline, impacting the waterfront ecosystem and lakeshore properties. This is especially true when skiing, wakeboarding or tubing with the family.
- Disturbed fish habitat and spawning beds
- Increased growth of algae and aquatic weeds
- Swamped loon, duck and turtle nests
- Reduced clarity of the lake
- Neighbouring property damage
What can you do?
- Find open areas, especially during high water periods
- Look for rocky shoreline
- Stay away from docks, boats and cottages
- Stay away from marshy areas and potential fish habitats
- Always leave and approach shore in a straight line diminishing “turning waves’.
- Look behind you to see where your wake is travelling
- Talk to your neighbours to see if they have concerns
Let’s find the balance.
A little science…what we can’t see
Eroded materials from your shoreline are basically particles of silt, sand and clay. When it becomes slow moving, it loses its ability to carry the heavier particles and they settle on the bottom, causing what is known as sedimentation. Sedimentation can then result in increased turbidity (murky water), the formation of deltas in rivers and streams, channel clogging, and increased chance of flooding due to lack of water movement.
When water is turbid, less sunlight can infiltrate water, beginning the upset that disturbs the biological balance for aquatic life. Aquatic plants and algae are reduced in growth, in turn diminishing the amount of food available to fish and other forms of aquatic life. Some fish (Northern pike and trout) use their sight to feed and turbid water makes it more difficult for them find food.
Sedimentation will affect bottom dwelling organisms like clams and caddis fly larvae by burying them too deeply to survive. Gravel and pebbles that are friendly to stoneflies and some species of mayflies may be buried in sediment, rendering the bottom unfriendly to these creatures as well. Fish species like walleye, trout and bass that use the same gravel and pebbles as their favourite spawning beds will also be affected as their reproductive sites are destroyed.
The Human Cost … what we can see
One of the potential impacts to humans when turbidity of water increases is the treatment of our drinking water. It becomes more difficult and costly, as sophisticated systems will be required to properly treat and clear the water of sedimentation. Murky water also makes waterfront property less attractive for all the water activities we enjoy at the lake like swimming and boating.
Causes of Shoreline Erosion
Here are some of human causes of shoreline erosion. We can now examine our own properties and then try to find a better balance by remedying what we can.
- Removal of trees, rocks and other vegetation from the shoreline to build a structure or a pathway to the water.
- Removal of vegetation to improve the view – or just to tidy up Mother Nature.
- Building obstructions like docks in streams that changes water pathways and speeds around them, influencing the natural erosion.
- Installation of drainage systems that do not include the use of baffles to reduce the flow of water.
- Use of watercraft of any kind for any purpose (skiing, wake boarding) at too high a speed (anything over 10 km/hr) and too close to shore.
Grow Me Instead
The Grow Me Instead program is a provincial initiative by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council which aims to promote native or non-invasive garden plants, and to educate gardeners on potentially invasive garden species. As a part of our commitment to environmental stewardship and member education/communication, LOWDSA currently features a “Grow Me Instead” article in each copy of the Lake of the Woods Area News Magazine.